Bio-based polymers to triple by 2020

Bio-based polymers to triple by 2020The worldwide production capacity of bio-based polymers will triple from 5.7 million tonnes in 2014 to nearly 17 million tonnes in 2020, according to a new market study by the nova-Institute.

The Germany-based consultancy that specialises in the bio-based economy published the 2015 edition of its ‘Bio-based Building Blocks and Polymers in the World – Capacities, Production and Applications: Status Quo and Trends Towards 2020’ study yesterday (10 November).

Predictions set out in the study are based on the development and annual growth rates of bio-based polymer production capacity, which show a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) – the average annual growth rate of investment – of 20 per cent. This compares favourably to the CAGR of petrochemical polymers, which sits between three and four per cent.

The current and projected figures by the nova-Institute are significantly higher than those published last week (5 November) by European Bioplastics, which predicted that production capacity of bioplastics would rise from around 1.7 million tonnes in 2014 to 7.8 million tonnes in 2019. This, the institute explains, is due to the ‘broader scope’ taken in its study, including further bio-based polymers, such as bio-based thermosets (plastics that strengthen when heated) and cellulose acetate.

According to the study, in 2013, the 5.7 million tonnes of bio-based polymer production capacity represented around two per cent of global overall polymer production (256 million tonnes) and recorded a turnover of around €11 billion (£7.75 billion).

The proportion of polymer production has grown from 3.3 million tonnes, or a 1.4 per cent share, in 2011, and it is estimated that it will increase to more than four per cent in 2020, when total polymer production is expected to be around 400 million tonnes.

The nova-INstitute report front page
‘Drop-in’ bio-based polymers leading growth

The study predicts that ‘drop-in’ bio-based polymers such as partly bio-based PET (polyethylene terephthalate) will have the ‘most dynamic’ development in the coming years.

Production of bio-based PET, made using bio-ethanol from sugar cane, increased by 600,000 tonnes in 2014, and is predicted to reach around seven million tonnes by 2020 after the Coca-Cola Company established the Plant PET Technology Collaborative (PTC) initiative.

The PTC programme also features Ford Motor Company, H. J. Heinz Company, Nike and Procter & Gamble and seeks to accelerate the development and use of plant-based PET materials and fibres in the companies’ products.

Geographic development of bio-based polymer capacity

Most investment is predicted to take place in Asia due to the ‘better access to feedstock and [a] favourable political framework’. According to the study, the region currently houses 58.1 per cent of bioplastic production capacity, and will hold 80.6 per cent by 2019.

Europe’s share is projected to decrease from 15.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent, while the study predicts that North America’s share will drop from 14.0 per cent to 4.1 per cent.

The study states that Europe’s position in producing bio-based polymers is limited to just a few distinct polymers, with bioplastics producer Novamont credited as leading the development of starch blends. Developments and investments in PLA (polylactic acid) in particular, however, are predicted to grow in Europe, with increased demand coming from construction and automotive industries.

A short version of the report is available to download for free from the nova-Institute website.